Manage episode 373510403 series 2950797
“I have been presenting since I was 17, but I am not good at engaging the audience”. This comment from a man in his fifties was telling. He was in a very technical area which requires a highly acute mind and he is a leader in that field. He has a big job today for a famous brand name firm. If he has been getting lots of practice presenting since a young age, why has he not been able to transition across to engaging his audience? He made the comment to me unprompted, so he was aware of the gap and had not been able to bridge it yet under his own steam.
I told him that in one particular course we have, that stretches over two days, by mid-afternoon on Day One the participants start to stop focusing on themselves and really start working their audience and this just continues for the next day and a half. If it is that quick, why can’t he get to that point by himself? The simple answer is the expertise of the instructors and the coaching being handed out.
If you don’t know what you are looking for, it is hard to hit the target and by that, I don’t mean having some vague idea of what you want to achieve in audience engagement terms. The instructors know what they are looking for and so they push the participants to rise to the occasion and start connecting with the people they are talking to. The coaching shows the way forward and the repetition with feedback is the key to refining this part of the presenter’s arsenal.
The big breakthrough comes in a couple of forms. One is the energy flow. When we are just handing over information, we retain all the energy within ourselves and are just going through the motions with a major data dump. We are putting the information under the audience’s noses and then just leaving it up to them to digest it. When we want to engage the audience, we start directing our intrinsic energy known as “ki” in Japanese, into the audience. Anyone who has studied martial arts will have a good idea of what I am talking about.
This requires that we are pumping out energy to those in front of us. That sounds simple enough but a lot of people are very mild mannered and softly spoken. Consequently they become invisible to their audience and nothing they present resonates nor retains. We need to purposely lift our energy and then direct it to the audience members and we need to do that one person at a time. Pushing the energy out en masse, means the energy is diluted and the spell is broken.
For some people pushing out a lot of energy is something they don’t normally do, so they are resistant to increasing the energy flow. They imagine they can address the audience just as they would their friend over coffee. That is definitely not the case and presenting and chatting are light years apart in the galaxy of public speaking.
I saw this recently with a very senior person giving a talk. She is a very mild mannered, softly spoken person. That is fine, except if you want to have impact with an audience you need to increase the energy and particularly the voice volume. For her, anything above a chat level of speaking would feel totally crazy, as if she was hysterical and was screaming at people. Not true. What happens is we feel your confidence and we feel your energy and we gravitate toward both.
I know I could get her from totally forgettable to remarkable in thirty minutes of coaching, but mentally she is not interested in that, because she doesn’t value public speaking enough to want to make the change. So be it, but the downside is, she stays invisible. I think that is a bad idea.
By talking to the audience one person at a time, we can direct the energy flow straight to each person, one by one, and they immediately feel it. We combine this energy direction with our eye power. The usual formula is for the speaker to look at everyone and therefore no one. Our eye power is now diluted. When we give six seconds of eye power to each person, we are making a powerful direct connection, which for the audience member is tremendously impactful. They really feel we are talking to them only, in the room, for that moment and the link between us is palpable.
When we add in our gestures to the pot, we are now cooking up a magic broth, which really engages the audience. There is the issue of knowing what to do, getting coached so that you can refine it and having the desire to make the necessary changes to accomplish this connection with the audience. If the desire isn’t there, than no amount of professional coaching will work. The problem for most people is all they have ever seen are presenters talking at their audience rather than speakers deeply engaging their audience. When we see what is possible, it opens our eyes up and we realise the gap between where we are today and where we could be. Get the desire and get the coaching.